Sunglasses vs. Ski Goggles: What’s the Difference?

Whether you're a weekend warrior or an experienced extreme athlete, ski goggles are an essential piece of protective gear. As you gear up for your next ski trip, read our complete guide to choosing the right ski goggles in 2024. We'll walk you through the key factors to consider, from impact resistance ratings to style, so you can find the perfect goggles for your eyes and your adventures on the slopes. Learn the advantages of ski goggles over regular sunglasses and how to select prescription or photochromic lenses if needed. With our expert tips, you'll feel confident you have the right eyewear to maximize performance, safety, and fun this winter.

skiing goggles

Why Ski Goggles Are Essential for Winter Sports

Ski goggles and sunglasses both protect your eyes from the sun, but there are a few key differences to consider for snow sports.

Impact Resistance

Ski goggles are designed specifically for winter sports and feature impact-resistant lenses and frames to protect from injuries. They meet industry safety standards for impact forces and objects like tree branches. Sunglasses typically do not offer this level of impact protection.

Coverage and Fit

Ski goggles offer more coverage than most sunglasses, fully enclosing the eye area. They also have extra foam padding around the edges to block wind, snow, and debris. This snug but comfortable fit is essential for protection at high speeds. Sunglasses may let in elements from the sides and lack the secure fit of goggles.

Lens Technology

Ski goggle lenses are engineered for variable winter light conditions and terrain. They offer features like polarized lenses to reduce glare, mirrored lenses for bright light, and yellow or rose-tinted lenses for low light visibility. Some also have anti-fog coatings. While some high-end sunglasses offer similar lens options, most do not have the same technology as ski goggles.

Prescription Options

For those who wear prescription glasses, ski goggles can be custom made to fit your prescription. Prescription inserts or frames also allow you to wear contact lenses under the goggles. Only a limited selection of prescription sunglasses are available and may not offer the same fit and features as prescription ski goggles.

In the end, for snow sports, ski goggles simply offer superior protection, performance, and comfort over regular sunglasses. Your eyes will thank you for choosing the right gear for the conditions.

Key Features to Look for When Choosing Ski Goggles

Protection from the Elements

To enjoy winter sports, you need gear that protects you from the elements. Ski goggles are designed specifically for snow sports and provide essential protection for your eyes that sunglasses cannot. Ski goggles shield your eyes from wind, snow, and UV radiation. They have extra padding around the eyes, anti-fog lenses, and straps to keep them securely in place. For the best protection, look for goggles with UV400 rated lenses that block 100% of UVA and UVB rays.

Impact Resistance and Safety

Skiing and snowboarding can be dangerous activities, and your eyes need protection from potential impacts and accidents. Ski goggles are made of durable, impact-resistant materials and often have polycarbonate lenses. Look for goggles that meet industry safety standards like EN 174:2001 or ASTM F659. These ratings indicate the goggles can withstand a high-mass impact without the lens shattering. For the highest impact resistance, consider goggles with a spherical lens shape.

Features for Clear Vision

To see clearly while skiing or snowboarding, you need goggles designed for winter sports. Features like anti-fog lenses, ventilation, and interchangeable lenses allow you to adapt to changing conditions. Anti-fog lenses prevent condensation buildup inside the goggles. Look for double lenses, lens vents, and foam padding around the eyes and nose. Interchangeable lenses let you switch from low light to bright light lenses as needed. These features, combined with the proper lens tint for your activity and conditions, provide the clear vision you need to ski or snowboard safely.

Top-Rated Ski Goggles for 2024

When selecting ski goggles, consider the following key features to determine the best pair for your needs.

Lens Type

The lens material impacts visibility, protection, and cost. Polycarbonate lenses are impact-resistant but prone to scratches. Acrylic lenses resist scratches but offer less impact protection. For the best of both, choose a polycarbonate lens with an acrylic coating. Polarized lenses reduce glare from snow and ice while photochromatic lenses automatically adjust to changing light conditions.

Lens Tint

The lens tint affects how much light passes through to your eyes. For most snow conditions, a neutral grey tint with a visible light transmission or VLT rating of 50-70% works well. In very bright light, go darker. In low light, go lighter. Some goggles offer interchangeable lenses for varying conditions.

Frame Size and Shape

Look for a frame that fits snugly but comfortably, with padding around the eyes. A smaller frame reduces peripheral vision but helps block light and wind. A larger frame provides more peripheral vision but may let in more elements. Consider a frame shape that matches the shape of your helmet and face for the best fit.

Ventilation and Anti-Fog

Effective ventilation helps prevent lens fogging by allowing air flow behind the lens. Look for vents, mesh panels, and foam lining that wicks away moisture. An anti-fog coating on the lens also helps. For high-energy activities, maximizing ventilation and using an electric fan system may be needed.

Straps and Padding

Adjustable, padded straps that can fit over your helmet keep goggles securely and comfortably in place. Padding around the eyes prevents wind, snow, and cold from penetrating into the goggles. Look for straps and padding made of high-quality, durable materials that withstand sub-zero temperatures.

With the variety of ski goggles on the market, considering these key features will help you find a high-quality, high-performance pair that suits all your skiing and snowboarding needs. Protecting your vision on the slopes is well worth the investment.

Finding the Perfect Fit - Ski Goggle Sizing

Ski goggles are essential protective eyewear for winter sports and provide impact resistance as well as UV protection. When choosing ski goggles, there are several factors to consider:

Lens Type

The lens type directly impacts visibility and protection. Double lens goggles with anti-fog coating provide the best visibility. Mirror coated lenses reduce glare while polarized lenses reduce glare and improve contrast. For maximum UV protection, choose goggles with 100% UV protection.

Frame and Foam

The frame and foam padding provide comfort and protection. Frames that wrap around your face offer the best protection from wind and debris. Foam padding should provide cushioning and insulation without irritation. Look for hypoallergenic, moisture-wicking foam padding.

Impact Resistance and Safety

For safety, choose goggles that meet impact resistance standards like ASTM F803. This standard ensures the goggles can withstand high and low temperature conditions and impacts. Goggles that state they meet this standard will also specify the impact resistance level from 1 to 3, with level 3 providing the highest impact resistance.

Fit and Compatibility

For the best experience, choose goggles that fit properly with your helmet and eyeglass frames (if applicable). Most brands offer goggles in multiple sizes to suit different face shapes and helmets. For eyeglass wearers, look for OTG (over-the-glasses) goggles or prescription inserts.

Some highly-rated, impact-resistant ski goggles for 2024 include:

  • Oakley Flight Deck XM Prizm - Features Prizm lens technology and meets ASTM F803. Suitable for medium to large faces.
  • Smith I/O Mag - Wide field of view, anti-fog inner lens, and compatible with helmets and eyeglasses. Available in multiple sizes.
  • Giro Index OTG - Designed to fit comfortably over most eyeglass frames. Double lens and 100% UV protection. Fits most face shapes.
  • Bolle Mojo - Triple layer face foam, anti-fog inner lens, and flow-tech venting system. Meets ASTM F803 level 2. Suitable for small to medium faces.

Following these guidelines will help you choose high-performance ski goggles to keep you safe and comfortable on the slopes. Always consider the specific needs and conditions you will encounter to select the right goggles for your winter adventures.

Lens Types and Technologies for Optimal Vision

Polarized Lenses

Polarized lenses reduce glare from reflective surfaces like snow, water, and ice. They filter out horizontally polarized light, which your eyes perceive as glare. For snow sports, polarized lenses are ideal for reducing eyestrain on sunny days. They provide crisp, clear vision and more comfort. Polarized lenses may reduce visibility in low light conditions, so for variable conditions, interchangeable lenses are a good option.

Photochromic Lenses

Photochromic lenses automatically adjust to different light conditions. Their lens tint darkens in bright light and lightens in low light. Photochromic lenses are very convenient since you don’t have to change lenses or goggles. However, some photochromic lenses may not darken enough for very bright conditions. The transition time can also be a few seconds, so they may not adjust quickly enough for variable conditions. High-quality photochromic lenses provide good all-around vision for most days on the slopes.

Mirrored Lenses

Mirrored lenses have a reflective coating that helps reduce glare. They appear mirrored to observers but do not actually provide a mirror view from the inside. Mirrored lenses block a significant amount of light, so they are best for very bright conditions. For variable light or low light, mirrored lenses can be too dark for good visibility. Some mirrored lenses have an added benefit of making goggles more discreet and stylish.

Prescription Inserts

For skiers and snowboarders who wear prescription glasses, prescription inserts are an excellent solution. The inserts fit inside the goggles frame and can be removed. You have full protection from the elements with the convenience of your prescription. Prescription inserts need to be properly fitted to your goggles to ensure comfort and to prevent fogging. It is best to have an optician help select inserts that match your specific goggles and prescription.

With the variety of lens types and technologies available, you can find ski goggles perfectly suited to your needs and conditions. The right lenses provide optimal vision, glare reduction, and eye protection so you can enjoy a full day out on the slopes.

Keeping Your Eyes Safe - Impact Resistance Ratings

ANSI Z87.1 Safety Rating

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) sets impact resistance standards for protective eyewear. Look for ski goggles rated ANSI Z87.1 or higher. This rating means the goggles can withstand high velocity impacts from objects like branches. Goggles with this rating have impact-resistant polycarbonate lenses and durable frames.

Higher Impact Ratings

For more rugged conditions, consider goggles with higher ANSI ratings like Z87.1+. These provide greater impact protection and resistance. Goggles rated Z87.1-2015 are the latest standard and must pass stringent drop-ball impact tests. Look for brands that specifically call out meeting or exceeding these higher ANSI standards for the safest options.

European EN Standards

European ski goggles follow EN (European Norm) standards like EN 174:2001. These also measure impact resistance, with ratings like EN Category 1, 2 or 3, in order of increasing protection. EN Category 2 and 3 goggles provide high impact resistance for most skiing and snowboarding. Check that any EN rated goggles you buy also meet basic ANSI Z87.1 standards for impact protection.

Prescription Goggle Options

If you wear prescription glasses, you have options for corrective ski goggles. Many brands offer goggles that can fit over most prescriptions. OTG (over-the-glasses) goggles are designed to fit comfortably over glasses. You can also get custom prescription inserts that fit inside the goggles. For the best vision correction that doesn’t compromise protection, consider prescription goggles with the lenses integrated into the frame and rated to the same ANSI standards as regular goggles.

Using properly rated protective eyewear designed for skiing and snowboarding is essential for eye health and safety. Carefully checking the impact resistance ratings and standards of any goggles before you buy them will help ensure your eyes stay protected from injury out on the slopes. Focusing on brands known for high performance and protection will give you the confidence to enjoy winter sports safely.

FAQs About Ski Goggles: Your Top Questions Answered

When selecting ski goggles, those who wear prescription glasses face an additional challenge. Prescription ski goggles allow you to hit the slopes without contacts while providing impact resistance and UV protection. You have a few options for obtaining prescription ski goggles:

Purchase Frames and Have Lenses Fitted

Some goggle brands like Smith Optics, Oakley, and Giro offer frames compatible with prescription lenses. You can purchase the frames and have prescription lenses fitted by your optometrist or an eyewear retailer like Lenscrafters that offers ski goggle lens installation. This allows you to select frames you like from major brands with the proper lens shape and ventilation for skiing.

Buy Over-the-Glasses (OTG) Goggles

OTG goggles are designed to fit over most prescription glasses. While more budget-friendly, OTG goggles typically do not provide the same close, customized fit as prescription lens inserts. They can also feel bulkier and less comfortable. OTG goggles still offer impact resistance and UV protection, so they may suit occasional skiers.

Order Custom Prescription Ski Goggles Online

Websites like SportRx, Oakley, and Smith Optics allow you to enter your prescription details and pupillary distance (PD) measurement to create custom prescription ski goggle lenses. They offer lenses for many popular ski goggle models, so you can often get the frames you want with prescription lenses already installed. Lead times for custom prescription lenses are usually 10 to 14 business days.

Visit an Eyewear Retailer with Ski Goggle Options

Some eyewear stores like Visionworks or Eyemart Express have agreements with certain ski goggle brands to install custom prescription lenses in-store. They can take your prescription details and measurements to install lenses in the frames you select. This allows you to try on different goggles and walk out the same day with your prescription ski goggles. Call ahead to check if your local stores offer custom ski goggle lens installation.

With the variety of options now available, skiers requiring vision correction no longer need to compromise on eyewear. By selecting a solution that fits your needs and budget, you can enjoy crystal clear vision on the slopes. Protecting your eyes doesn’t mean sacrificing style or performance. Gear up for your next ski trip with confidence knowing your eyes will be shielded from sun and snow.

Roger Sarkis